Taking a look back at seven days of news and headlines across the world of Android, this week’s Android Circuit includes a major change to the Galaxy S10, Samsung confirming its folding screen plans, the first reviews of the OnePlus 6T, the Note 9’s Fortnite exclusive, Android Pie for the Nokia 6.1, the first review of Red’s Hydrogen One smartphone, and the disappearance of Android tablets.
Android Circuit is here to remind you of a few of the many things that have happened around Android in the last week (and you can find the weekly Apple news digest here).
Galaxy S10 To Remove Headphone Jack
With OnePlus removing the headphone jack (more on the 6T in a moment), Samsung remains one of the last big players to ship a flagship handset with the ubiquitous connector. Unfortunately it looks like the South Korean company may be ready to follow the crowd and switch to USB-C or wireless only options. Forbes’ Gordon Kelly reports:
…the jack-less Galaxy S10 is currently at the prototype stage and it is indicative of a wider change that the company “may follow Apple in going completely wireless with its devices”.
Samsung has been one of the last smartphone makers to retain the headphone jack and this stubbornness is loved by fans. So it goes without saying that removing it would result in a significant outcry. Moreover, such a move was already predicted for the Galaxy Note 10 but to see it moved up for the Galaxy S10 would be controversial, to say the least.
Samsung Filing Confirms Folding Screen Details
Samsung is getting ready to launch it’s folding smartphone, and is making sure everyone knows about it. The latest pointer is the all-important screen, and the latest trademark applications is packed with details and inferences on what the South Korean company is planning.
Firstly, ‘Infinity’ is the brand name Samsung chooses for the almost bezel-less flagship phone displays it uses on the Galaxy S8, S9, Note 8 and Note 9. And since this is for a future device, you can expect the bezels will be smaller than ever.
Secondly, Samsung announced its Galaxy F November event (dubbed “The crossroads between the present and the future”) with an animated video which focuses on a V that represents using the phone with it folding at both the beginning and end.
The First Folding Smartphone Isn’t From Samsung
Samsung has been in a rush to get the presumptively named folding Galaxy-F on sale so it can be first’ with the technology. Well… step forward Californian-based Royole, and its debut of the FlexiPai in Beijing this week. The Android based handset has a wraparound screen similar to a book’s dust cover with the front cover acting like a phone, which will fold out flat to act as a tablet. Leo Kelion has the details for the BBC and why the real goal may be in the supply chain, rather than the smartphone sales:
Another company-watcher added that he doubted the FlexPai would ever be produced in large numbers.
“Royole has carried out several publicity stunts over the years to showcase its flexible OLED [organic light-emitting diode] displays,” said Dr Guillaume Chansin from Irimitech Consulting.
“The FlexPai is probably another stunt. Royole is building its first OLED factory and it is now trying to compete directly with other display manufacturers such as Samsung and LG.”
OnePlus 6T Launched
Although OnePlus has spent a lot of time talking about the OnePlus 6T features, this week saw the OnePlus 6T finally launched in New York. David Phelan has been putting the camera through its paces. The hardware remains the same as the OnePlus 6, but the improved software is designed to increase low light performance. Has it succeeded?
In lower light it’s pretty decent, though like most camera phones, more light transforms the result – it’s the difference between just-about-usable and hey-look-at-this. The Nightscape mode is similar to the long-exposure Huawei had on the P20 Pro earlier this year, which is great at picking out details the human eye can only dimly see in the dark. It’s effective and even surprising the way it brightens up dark scenes, but it also can make the images look slightly weird, or at least very different from how you saw the scene.
Cameras are so important on smartphones today, arguably one of the very first features customers think about before they buy. How many cameras? How many pixels? What can they do? The twin snappers here work together well and, crucially, fast.
More on the camera here. But for all the impassive hardware specifications and additions, the OnePlus 6T has a key advantage in its operating system. I took at closer look at the handset’s software in my initial review, here on Forbes:
But before I go there, it’s worth noting that the attraction of the OnePlus 6T (and it is an attractive handset) is that manufacturing a handset is like making a cake. They all have the same ingredients, but they are all mixed together slightly differently, which can lead to wildly different results.
So the real difference between the 6T and the competition is not the fingerprint sensor – that is already streaming out of China on handsets from Vivo, Oppo, and Xiaomi to name three – but how everything works together. Which means the real star of the show is not the bullet points in store, it’s OnePlus’s Oxygen OS.
Galaxy Note 9 Goes For Fortnite
Meanwhile Samsung’s use of Epic Games’ Fortnite Battle Royale to promote the Galaxy Note 9 continues with new exclusive equipment available to Note 9 users. Gamers looking for a new phone who are into the combat game can’t help but wonder if this offers an advantage on the island. Shane McGlaun reports:
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 or Tab S4 owners playing Fortnite will get a Galaxy-themed harvesting tool, glider, and back bling. These items are in addition to the Samsung Galaxy-themed skin that was offered last month. Samsung also offered players a chance to highlight their best gaming moments while using the exclusive skin for a chance to play with some elite gamers.
Nokia 6.1 Is Next for Android 9 Pie
HMD Global has announced that Android 9 Pie is rolling out to a second handset in its Nokia range. Nokia 6.1 users will be able to install the latest version of the OS over the air. HMD Global’s use of AndroidOne makes this a slightly easier process than those manufacturers with a bespoke skin over Android, and once again reinforces the customer support levels it offers. From the press release:
Packed with Google’s newest software and building on the features of Android 8.0 Oreo™, Android 9 Pie’s focus on artificial intelligence and machine learning gives owners a more customised and tailored experience.
…Now with Android 9 Pie, the Nokia 6.1’s already impressive battery life is further complimented with the introduction of Adaptive Battery, an update that uses deep learning to understand usage patterns and prioritise battery power on the most important apps.
The Phone With The Hologram Is Reviewed
Red’s entrance into the smartphone camera market with the Red Hydrogen One has been hyped with its ‘holographic’ display. As well as the new screen, it packs in a 4500 mAh battery, a solid camera (but one that falls short when you consider Red is known for its cinematic cameras), and a pin connector for modular accessories in the future. Ben Schoon reviews the handset, starting with the screen:
What’s absolutely the biggest “attraction” of the RED Hydrogen One is that it has a “holographic” 4V display. RED hyped this feature up big time, not allowing many who saw it before launch to even describe it. Now, we can tell you what it looks like. Some may have imagined a Star Wars (or Star Trek, take your pick)-esque hologram popping out of the display, but that’s just not the case. This compares most closely to the Nintendo 3DS, and only certain apps and content can pop you into the “4V” mode.
The 5.7-inch display on its own is fine, and when you’re in the 4V mode it does feel futuristic, but it also feels not quite finished. There’s quite a bit of content out there, including videos in the “Hydrogen Network” app.
In the week where Apple pushed the new iPad Pro over its Mac based laptops, whatever happened to the wonderful world of Android tablets? Over to Rose Behar:
The message that Android tablets are dead comes straight from Google, which didn’t offer the Android Pie developer preview on any tablets, and briefly took down the tablet page on its Android website in June. Even though this was supposedly a mistake, the page itself isn’t very inspiring, featuring only three aging tablets: The Nvidia Shield Tablet K1 (likely the last of its kind), the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8.0, and Sony Xperia Z4. How did we get here, and what ultimately killed Android tablets? It’s a winding road with a number of missteps, making it difficult to point to one key reason. Ultimately, a confluence of factors led to the downfall.
Android Circuit rounds up the news from the Android world every weekend here on Forbes. Don’t forget to follow me so you don’t miss any coverage in the future, and of course read the sister column in Apple Loop! Last week’s Android Circuit can be found here, and if you have any news and links you’d like to see featured in Android Circuit, get in touch!